Why It’s Hard To Lose Weight As You Age

By: Jody Trierweiler

Have you noticed that, as you get older, it’s becoming much more difficult to lose weight? Long gone are the days of binging on Taco Bell and McDonald’s, with no repercussions. Trying to shed ten pounds isn’t so easy anymore. Rest assured that it’s not just your imagination; losing weight is harder to do as we age.

Regardless of how thin or fit you are, every aging human suffers physiological changes that cause weight gain, belly fat and slower metabolism. There are a number of reasons for this. However, the two main factors are hormonal fluctuations and muscle loss. It means a quick morning run simply won’t cut it for a 45-year-old who wants to burn off the calories from an unhealthy pizza.

Get excited because you can manage these changes! Rather than cutting calories, it is a simple case of adjusting your approach to fitness and diet.

Male Hormones: Testosterone is the secret to men having naturally less fat and more muscle than women. The hormone—a hydrophobic molecule—likes to stick to fat, meaning less fat storage overall. It also builds muscle tissue, fuels metabolism, and maintains insulin sensitivity (which prevents diabetes).

While cardio or aerobic workouts are beneficial for heart health, muscle building is just as important to protect yourself from developing inflammation and diabetes.

Lower testosterone levels make it easier for the body to store fat. Equally, obesity impairs the production of testosterone. As men age, testosterone levels naturally decrease at a rate of about one percent a year after the age of 30. This means body fat starts to increase, especially in the belly area.

Female Hormones: The female body has a delicate balance of progesterone and estrogen. Higher levels of estrogen contribute to fat tissue formation and storage. In younger women, this is offset by strong levels of progesterone. From the age of 35, levels of both hormones decrease, eventually leading up to menopause. However, progesterone levels decrease at a faster rate, causing fat tissue to form at a seemingly less controllable rate than before.

Muscle Loss: From the time you are born, until approximately age 30, your muscles grow larger and stronger. At some point in your 30s, you start to lose muscle mass and function. You can lose up to 3-5% of muscle mass every decade if you’re sedentary. The loss of muscle mass is one of the greatest factors that leads to a slow metabolism. Muscle tissue is the largest consumer of glucose in the entire body. If you can’t maintain your lean muscle mass as you age, there’s less to consume than glucose. In turn, that glucose can convert into lingering body fat. As a result, your body does not process carbs as swiftly as it once did.

Change Your Workout: The exercises people do as they get older tend to be cardiovascular-focused, like walking, biking or swimming. But it’s particularly important as people get older that they focus on resistance training. It’s more important than when you’re 25! While cardio or aerobic workouts are beneficial for heart health, muscle building is just as important to protect yourself from developing inflammation and diabetes.

Resistance training is a general term for any exercise that causes muscles to work against some form of resistance, such as dumbbells, elastic bands or your own body weight. Some examples include planking, squats, bicep curls and push-ups. Remember to include all muscle groups, including areas you may often neglect, like the upper and lower back, glutes and even forearms

To reassure anyone who’s concerned with looking “too muscular”, it’s extremely difficult for a woman to naturally carry a high volume of muscle, or to look like a bodybuilder without using steroids. You can still lift heavy weight and add muscle to your frame without increasing in size. You will actually become smaller because you will have much less fat. Arms and legs will decrease in circumference from resistance training. Bonus!

Eat More Protein: Protein shakes are marketed to 20-something gym buffs who are looking to beef up their muscles. The supplement is essential for older people to build muscle and keep metabolism stable. It’s especially important that, as people age, they consume protein with each meal. Protein is essential because it contains the amino acids that repair and replenish muscle damage (a positive side effect of resistance training). You also need it if you want to build muscle. Protein from foods is always preferred, such as chicken breast, lentils, fish and nuts. Protein powder is a good back up plan to ensure that you’re receiving adequate amounts of protein to support your new muscle tissue.

Now that you understand how aging contributes to weight gain, make changes to your exercise and nutrition plan immediately

Jody Trierweiler is a leading fitness expert. Certified as a personal trainer, fitness instructor and nutritional consultant, she’s been appearing on Detroit pop culture show Live In The D for the past five years. She’s produced and starred in three seasons of Jody’s FitLife on Comcast. She’s also a corporate speaker, regular podcast guest, and writes health articles. She is mom to two boys and active in her church. Find her on social media as Jody’s FitLife.

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